Friday, January 15, 2010

Occupational Hazard

Before I get started, I must recommend going over to "Speculative Musings" and reading Paul Baines' zombie love story based on Twilight. Keep going, Paul. You have a winner there.

In season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and Zander are watching a martial arts' film on a double-date. Buffy scoffs her way through the show, finally ending with an exasperated, "What's powering that kick? Sheer enthusiasm?" You see, Buffy kicks demon tail and horns and claws eight days a week. She's going to be a harsh judge of martial arts' skills because her life depends on them.

In the movie Fireproof, Caleb buys his wife a cheap bouquet as proof that he loves her. When Catherine walks in and sees the mason jar with its ugly ribbon, one rose, one stem of stock, and some sad foliage, it's meant to be funny and pathetic and so we laugh. I work at a florist magazine. I'm around florists and floral designers 40 hours a week. I can tell you no florist worth her preservative would have allowed such a bouquet out of her shop, let alone her delivery van. Even Walmart's unmanned kiosk bouquets look better than that sad, little arrangement. It bothers me, and I know it bothers real florists who actually care.

Writing is like that. When you consider yourself a writer, you care about it more than other people (or you should). You notice things the average reader wouldn't. You train yourself to excel at your craft - the craft of communication. And, when you see sub-par writing, you cringe. You begin to throw books away instead of finishing them (for me, that started right after college).

I need to be careful, though. I suspect I could miss a great story because I'm looking for the out-of-place comma. I've said before writing is a skill that cannot be perfected. We aim for clarity, but because we work with words and meaning and the unknown perceptions of the reader, we cannot ever write the perfect story that reaches every person.

So, while yesterday's post was about holding ourselves to a higher standard, today's is about cutting ourselves a little slack.

Keep those standards high, but have fun, too. It's too much work to take so seriously.

Good job, Paul. Thanks for the laughs.

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